Got skills?

by Chuck Hyde ([email protected]) 240 views 

In January, the world’s best cyclocross professionals will arrive in Northwest Arkansas, ready to ride (and at times carry) their bikes through some of the most challenging terrain any of us could imagine on two wheels – and I can’t wait. Not because I’m a big cyclocross rider myself. Road cycling is my choice.

It’s because I love seeing world-class. Whether it’s cycling, theater, music, ballet… (well, maybe not ballet), but you get the idea.

But back to the point. These pros no doubt have combined an unbelievable personal drive, discipline, throw-caution-to-the-wind risk mindset and their God-given talent to be positioned to compete at the highest level of their sport.

On the other end of the spectrum, I recently read an article in Bike Arkansas for new mountain bikers. This quote struck me, and it parallels leadership development: “Skills development leads to confidence which leads to more fun. There are no shortcuts to becoming better.”

There are plenty of people who at least initially sought out leadership opportunities for a measure of fun – and while that is true, there are plenty of aspects of leadership responsibility that are anything but fun. So, what if we substitute the word fun for agility? If so, that supports my belief that as leaders, we need to continue to develop new skills and exercise well-developed ones if we are to be better – and I am convinced that part of better, particularly in today’s environment, is being more agile.

I meet regularly with executives and their teams and am constantly reminded how much being an agile leader, ready to respond, has to do with skill development.

Chuck Hyde

Often, leaders simply haven’t been exposed to a given skill, model, or process that boosts this agility. Here are three fundamentals that I run into frequently:

Giving feedback. Whether it’s praise, coaching or correction, giving feedback that is meaningful and actually helpful is a skill. In fact, it’s almost formulaic. And what’s better yet, one can follow the formula and still be genuine and authentic.

Candor. This is about capacity more than comfort. Being candid requires simultaneous courage and vulnerability, and for that reason, most find it hard to be comfortable in our candor. Still, despite the lack of comfort, there are constructs that we can use to build our muscle and, as with cycling, grow our confidence when tough conversations need to be had.

Hiring. We could devote an entire series to this because I run into so many who are so far off in their practices for placing people, even current ones, into jobs. And yet, the good news is that strong job design, interviewing, and placement practices are things that can be learned.

These three areas are reasonably top of mind and are exemplary of the more significant challenge leaders face. Borrowing back from the mountain biking analogy, there are plenty of twists and turns, rises and falls, jumps, roots, rocks and trees — and no, there are no shortcuts. All of this sounds a lot like leadership. Yet, with the commitment to skill development, leaders can become more equipped and more agile – and maybe even have a little more fun.

Chuck Hyde is the founder of C3 Advisors, a firm focused on executive development and talent optimization. He can be reached at www.c3adv.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.